Before the wolf, John used to enjoy going to pubs. He'd enjoyed drinking with friends, and meeting new people, and taking in the atmosphere. It'd always felt alive, and comforting, a tangible reminder of what he's fighting for.
After the wolf, he can't handle it. It's too crowded, there are too many scents (food and beer and sweat and unwashed bodies, smothering him). Everyone who stands taller than him is enemychallengefight, and anyone who drops their gaze in front of him is weakpreyhuntkill.
He forces himself to go anyways, because he wants to and he hasn't talked to his rugby mates in months, and seen them in longer. Every breath is an effort and every step feels like dragging his feet through molasses, and at the end of the night when Joel Oswald lowers his head and puts a hand on his elbow to ask him if he's alright, the wolf sends him a vivid mental image of him tearing out his throat.
“I'm fine,” he says, and smiles, lips tightly shut.
Before the wolf, his nightmares were about death -- his dying, his letting other people die, pain and suffering and the bodies of friends. He'd dream about mortar fire and gunshots and fear, and wake with a shout, the coppery smell of blood vivid and sharp in his mind, hair soaked with sweat. And he'd sit up, shaking, telling himself that he was still alive, that he was a doctor, that he was there to save lives.
After the wolf, he still dreams about death, but almost never about dying. He dreams about blood in his mouth, and running on four legs, and the sick, moist, ripping sound flesh makes when torn apart by fangs. He dreams about screams and pain and the spill of blood against sand.
But when John wakes from those dreams, he wakes up hard.
John's not sure what he was expecting when Mike Stamford introduced him to his potential new flatmate, but he's pretty sure it isn't this, this feeling of every sense in his body going into overload, becoming alert, telling him danger. The wolf throws itself against the bars of its cage, howling.
Sherlock Holmes is not human.
And from the look in his eyes -- a little wide with surprise, he is making the same deduction about John. Sherlock's nostrils flare briefly, and John knows he's inhaling his scent, because he had done the same thing.
But when Sherlock opens his mouth, he says, “Afghanistan or Iraq?” not “You're a werewolf!” as John is expecting, and ends up not mentioning the werewolf thing at all, so that's okay then.
“So, uh, where do you transform during the full moon?” John asks, looking round the flat. The unoccupied apartment below them, 221C, looked promising, but he can't be sure.
“Hmm? What do you mean?” Sherlock asks, and casts a questioning glance at John.
John looks away, drops his gaze. “You're a werewolf.”
“As are you,” Sherlock replies calmly. “So?”
“So where do you go to transform during the full moon?”
“Well, there're some nice paths I follow on occasion, with just the right amount of cover in case someone human shows up. I can show you some of them if you'd like, but I assume you already have your own -- you've lived in London before, and it's hardly difficult to find somewhere to --” Sherlock cuts off abruptly. “Are you asking to run with me? I don't usually -- ”
“What? No. What do you --” John has the feeling he's having a totally different conversation than the one he thinks he's having. He sits down heavily in one of the armchairs, and Sherlock sits as well. “Wait, sorry, can we start over?”
“This is the flat. There's a second bedroom upstairs, as Mrs. Hudson said, and between the two of us, we should have no problem affording it.”
“It looks nice. Very nice,” John says, and tamps down on the wolf in the back of his mind, the one that's pacing in circles and anxious, because the sitting room smells like stranger, carrying the possessive scent of the man in front of him. He's in someone else's territory. “And... you're a werewolf. And I'm a werewolf.”
Sherlock nods, and steeples his fingers underneath his chin. His pale eyes regard John steadily, staring him down. John breaks first, and drops his gaze. “Yes.”
“When the full moon breaks, what do you do? Where do you change? Where do you go?”
In Afghanistan, after the bite, they'd tie him down the morning of, and drive him as near an enemy base as they could safely go. The next morning if they hadn't already found him, they'd pick him up by following the tracker 'round his neck, and clean the blood from his face and body, then send him back to his normal job.
He hadn't minded, because people had died (his men had died), the first time the change had come upon him, unexpected and terrifying.
“I change in my room, usually. I'll leave one of the windows open, so we can get in and out without using the front door.”
“Isn't that dangerous?”
“Not especially. It's only a few feet off the ground. You'd have to be exceptionally clumsy not to make that jump.”
“No, I mean, dangerous for them. For humans. Don't you...” John trails off, because Sherlock's looking more and more confused by the moment, head cocked.
“Don't I what?”
“Don't you hurt them?”
“No, why would I hurt them? Most people aren't so stupid as to go 'here doggy' to a bloody big wolf, and the ones that do will usually leave you alone if you show a little teeth and give them a growl. There's a DI with the police that's a wolf too -- if you get the dog warden on you, you can contact him and he'll smooth it over.”
John can feel the beginning of a headache coming on. “So you can just, go outside. On a full moon. And you don't feel any urges to, oh, I don't know, rip out the throats of everyone you see and roll around in their blood?”
The wolf whimpers at the look Sherlock's giving him, and John fights back the urge to whimper as well, because it feels like he's being peeled apart, layer by layer, each piece examined under one of those microscopes he'd seen on the kitchen table.
“You've been a werewolf for less than two years,” Sherlock declares. “Whilst you were still deployed in Afghanistan. Lycanthropy is transmitted through bite, so I'll assume it was horribly traumatic and you probably thought you were attacked by a wolf and going to die.”
“What happened when you transformed?”
“I don't want to talk about it.”
“Something violent, then. How were you bitten?”
“They released werewolves on the full moon, had them attack our base. I was one of the casualties.”
“And the next full moon, they get you.”
“They had to shoot one of my legs out before they were able to herd me into a secure room and lock the door.”
“What do you do now, on full moons?”
“Lock myself in a room and hope I don't get out or damage anything too badly. Like in all the films.” John gives a sort of pained laugh.
“I don't watch werewolf films,” Sherlock says, and then adds, “Or films in general. They're too predictable. What happens in them?”
“Oh, you know...” John shrugs. “Man gets bitten by a werewolf, man turns into one, every full moon he has to lock himself up or else he'll go on a killing spree and spread the curse.”
“Do you want to go on a killing spree right now?”
“Of course not! But, the wolf, I can feel him, you know? It's like having someone else in your head, and it's so angry, all the time. He wants to. And I can control him, except on the full moon, when he breaks free.”
“It sounds unpleasant,” Sherlock comments mildly, as if they were talking about the weather.
John barks a laugh. “Yeah, it's horrible. Haven't you ever felt it?”
“I don't feel anything. I was born this way. My full moons are nothing like you're describing.” After a pause, Sherlock says, “I can help you adjust, if you want.”
The werewolf with the police is named Gregory Lestrade, and when Sherlock invites him over to their flat, he comes, but with a deep reluctance that John understands wholeheartedly. Because the whole flat smells of Sherlock -- his space, his territory, and John's wolf already feels like an intruder, wanting to slink back to his room, where Sherlock never goes.
His bedroom is his, and the bathroom smells more like soap than anything else, but the sitting room smells like strangerterritorynotminenotsafecareful.
Lestrade's nose wrinkles when he walks into their flat, and his stride loses its confidence, becomes wary. “How did you find another werewolf in London?” he asks, and stays standing when Sherlock sits down on the sofa. “I thought they were rare.”
“A mutual friend introduced us,” Sherlock says. He stands with a reluctant grimace when it becomes obvious that no one else wants to sit down; he's taller than them both. “John's been a werewolf for a year and a bit -- picked it up in Afghanistan.”
Lestrade looks at him, and John can see his wolf, lurking in the back of his eyes. He's never been able to see Sherlock's. “Hi,” John says, and holds out his hand.
But instead of taking his hand, Lestrade takes another step closer, and slides his face next to John's. His nose brushes against John's ear, and it brings Lestrade close enough that when John takes a deep breath, he inhales his scent. It should feel strange, overly familiar, but the wolf in him wags its tail, pleased.
Lestrade smells like wolf, like strength, like paper and soap and polite wariness.
Next to them, Sherlock makes an exasperated noise. “Really, there's no need to be obvious about it. He says he has problems when he changes into a wolf. How were your first changes?” To John, Sherlock says, “Lestrade's been a werewolf since childhood.”
“I was attacked while I was playing in the woods, when I was a boy,” Lestrade explains. “But I don't actually remember very much about it. It's all a blur.”
“Perhaps it's like chicken pox,” Sherlock says, and before John can get out a sarcastic comment about lycanthropy being nothing like chicken pox, thanks, he continues, “The change must be harsher on you the later in life you develop it.”
“Maybe. How did it happen?” Lestrade asks him.
“Werewolves attacked the base I was at, and I was one of the survivors,” John answers. “Did you know Sherlock can't feel the wolf?”
“You can't feel the wolf?” Lestrade asks Sherlock, at the same time that Sherlock says,
“You can feel it, right? Because I don't want to be the only nutter here,” John asks, but Sherlock's the one that looks confused; Lestrade's nodding with him.
“The wolf in the back of your head,” he agrees. “It's always there, and when you change, it's more in control.”
“You can control it, can't you?” John says, and Lestrade nods.
“It took a while before I could, but when I changed, I turned into a wolf cub. I couldn't do much damage. My parents used to lock me in the bathroom with gloves on so I couldn't draw blood; it took months before I stopped attacking them, and longer before I remembered what happened when I changed.”
“I never knew that,” Sherlock says, looking aggrieved. “And for god's sake, sit down already. Must we stand in the hallway like this?”
He throws himself down on the sofa defiantly, and John's (the wolf's) gaze is drawn momentarily by the sight of Sherlock's bared throat, long and exposed. The sudden urge to bite down on it frightens him -- and from the look Sherlock gives him (bored) he knows that Sherlock knows too. Knows, but isn't afraid.
Lestrade sits on the arm of the sofa. “I never knew it was different for you,” he says.
“I didn't know there was a difference until I met John. It must be different because he was turned into one, while I have always been a werewolf.” Sherlock hesitates, then adds, “Would you like to be there when he changes?”
“Sure. Didn't have anything else planned this month,” Lestrade says, and Sherlock grins at him, sharp.
“Brilliant. Come here before moonrise. We can use 221C.”
The wolf doesn't like the idea -- transforming in closed quarters with two other, more-experienced wolves, and John's done enough research on wolves (normal ones, but werewolves can't be that different, can they?) since getting back to know that they'll probably end up fighting each other.
But he's expecting to have plenty of time to adjust to the idea, to ease his wolf into accepting more wolves on his territory. Which is why it comes as a complete surprise when he gets home and sees the huge black wolf, curled up on the sofa.
He jumps back with a muffled curse, and drops the shopping with a crash. The wolf lifts his head, ears perked up, and John realizes with surprise that he can read his body language as clear as day. Alertness, recognition, and a greeting, telegraphed plainly in his eyes and the half-wag of a tail.
“Sherlock?” He asks, incredulous, because the moon hasn't risen, and the full moon's not for another week yet. “Is that you?”
A snort, a slight drop of the head, and a derisive ear flick. Yes, it's obviously Sherlock, and John shouldn't have needed to ask such a dumb question. Even from this distance and with his human nose, when he inhales he can recognize Sherlock's scent, subtly different (less soap, more fur) yet still the same, and his wolf whines with envy. It wants to come out too.
John's never seen a werewolf up close and personal, aside from the one that bit him -- and all his memories of that are hot breath, a ripping pain in his shoulder, fear so thick he could choke on it, and the words Please, God. Let me live.
Sherlock hops off the sofa, and he's massive. He's the same size as he would be in human form, give or take, which makes him nearly twice as big as a normal wolf, and John knows from experience that his teeth are sharp enough to rip out a man's throat in a single leap. He could probably kill John right now, if he wanted to -- but then again, John's not sure that's actually different from when he's human.
Besides, his ears say curious, and his tail says relaxed, and his upright gait says he's not hunting, so when Sherlock finally reaches him, John picks up the shopping bag and offers Sherlock his free hand to sniff. “I got ground beef for pasta tonight, another package of biscuits, and some milk.”
Sherlock's nose is cold against his palm, and his tail wags. He follows John to the kitchen when he puts away the shopping (lowers his head and whines when John finds the severed head in the fridge and jumps back with a curse), and sits up in a classic begging position when John opens the package of biscuits. John starts to hand him one, then stops. “There's chocolate in this. I thought dogs couldn't eat chocolate.”
Sherlock rolls his eyes at him -- John hadn't even known that was possible for a wolf to do. John gives him the biscuit.
“How are you -- How are you so human?” John asks, and reaches, carefully, for Sherlock's head. Sherlock's ear twitches when John's hand makes contact, and he leans into his hand. John scratches Sherlock tentatively behind the ear, and Sherlock's tail thumps, pleased, against the floor. “How did you change? The full moon's a week away.”
“I suppose it's hard to talk like that, isn't it.” John hesitates at the sofa -- it's not his, it's Sherlock's, full of his scent, but his wolf doesn't seem to mind. His wolf wants him to bury his face against Sherlock and inhale, wants to be friends. John sits on the sofa, and Sherlock hops up next to him, sticking his nose against John's neck.
John yelps and bares his neck, and Sherlock licks it. “Don't; it tickles,” he laughs. “Did you change on purpose? Can you control it?”
Sherlock nods, the movement strange and foreign on his body.
His wolf whines wistfully, and John strokes Sherlock's back and says, “Can you teach me to do that? Is it always like this?”
Because it looks fun. Because he came home to see a werewolf in their flat but he wasn't afraid because it wasn't threatening him. Everything about Sherlock is screaming, this is fun, I am happy and comfortable, but the only memories John has of the full moon is dread, and fear, and pain. He'd like to not be afraid.
Sherlock nods, then opens his mouth and makes a noise that sounds like a cross between a bark and a whine. He tries again, then hops off the sofa again and trots into his bedroom. When he comes out, he's human again, dressed in pajamas and pulling a dressing robe over his shoulders.
“I was cold, so I shifted. Wolves are much better adapted to cold weather. I find it easier to sleep this way too,” he adds, “and it has been a couple days since I last slept, so I decided I ought to catch up.”
“Is that a werewolf thing too? Not sleeping for days on end?”
“Not that I know of. My mother hated it when I skipped a night, can't imagine why. It's such a waste of time. But once you can get through the change safely,” Sherlock continues, “It won't be hard to teach you how to do it at will. I learned when I was five, and it didn't take long to teach Lestrade, either. It's a matter of concentration. I'll show you once you can retain your consciousness while shifting.”
On the day of the full moon, John can feel the wolf clawing at the inside of his mind, eager to get free. He's been home all day -- halfheartedly checking out job leads and brushing up his CV. He knows he ought to start looking for a job soon, but his savings plus his pension will hold him a handful of months yet, and the itching right under his skin makes it hard to focus. And he doesn't dare trust himself outside, because he doesn't know how he'll react to all the people, not with the wolf so close to the surface.
As the sun starts to set, John feels increasingly nervous, because neither Sherlock nor Lestrade are at the flat (or at 221C -- he's checked, twice). But he's handled moonrise alone before, and he's fairly certain if he locks himself in he'd be safe.
Sherlock gets home with maybe twenty minutes to spare, followed by Lestrade, who is carrying a huge, wrapped package that smells like blood. John's mouth waters.
“Where've you been?” John asks, and suppresses the anxious whine at the back of his throat.
“Work,” Lestrade says, “And then we had to pick up the meat from the butcher's. I placed an order with them, so we won't be hungry while we're in the other flat.”
Sherlock takes off his coat, and disappears into his bedroom; when he returns, he's carrying a thick blanket, and has changed into pajamas. “I don't like getting fur on my other clothes,” he explains.
Taking a leaf from Sherlock's book, John brings his blanket down to 221C too, and drops it in a corner of the room. It smells familiar, and some of the wolf's nervousness fades. If either Lestrade or Sherlock are nervous, they don't show it.
Five minutes to moonrise -- John can feel it in his bones. It's like being pulled at from all directions.
Sherlock and Lestrade are disrobing, and, with some self-consciousness, John does the same. It feels strange, the way the other two men are approaching it, with deep nonchalance. 'Oh, it's about time for me to turn into a bloodthirsty beast, better buy a slab of beef and bring down some blankets I can sleep on'. He giggles nervously.
“John?” Lestrade asks, and takes a half-step towards him. John drops his gaze, fights the urge to bare his throat. There is a massive scar on Lestrade's thigh, a streaked, vaguely-round path of raised, shiny flesh. It looks a little like the one John has on his shoulder, where the werewolf that'd attacked him had removed half his shoulder and crushed the bones in one bite. “Are you okay?”
He coughs. “Just nervous. I've never changed with anyone else before.” And now I'm changing with two other wolves, and my wolf doesn't know how we're going to rank up against them. He sneaks a glance at Sherlock -- his body is unmarred, and John doesn't know if it's because he doesn't get hurt, or if it's because he does, and just heals without leaving scars. He suspects the latter.
“Yes, well, there'll be no bloodshed if Lestrade stays out of my half of the room,” Sherlock says pointedly, and Lestrade bares his teeth at him.
“You won't take half the room, and you know it.”
“I'd be too bored if I did,” Sherlock agrees, and grins.
The change hits like it always does -- like a freight train to the spine, and John struggles to hold back his pained howl as the wolf tears at him, ripping itself out of his body, bones cracking as his skeleton forces itself into a new shape.
Dimly, he catches a glimpse of Sherlock's wide eyes, fur already rippling over his back and chest, and hears him shout, “Don't fight it! You'll hurt yourself!”, the last words blending seamlessly into a canine howl.
And then, he's gone.
Fear. Danger. Humans. Humans have been here before, but not recently. Two other wolves, here, in this room. There's not enough space for all three of them, but the dark one smells familiar. Not danger. He and the grey one stand in the middle of the room, over the meat he can smell now. He's hungry; he doesn't remember what it feels like to be full, and he slinks closer, ears down.
Neither of the other two wants to be the one to lower his head and remove the paper, so he does it. He darts forward to rip off a piece of paper with his teeth, and it tears with a loud rip. There's blood on it, and he laps at it, though his eyes don't leave the others.
The dark one darts in, now that the meat's revealed -- flesh, animal, dead, bloody. He grabs the biggest piece in his jaws, and the grey one lunges at him, teeth bared. They clash over it, then roll away, snarling and snapping. He smells blood -- fresh blood, wolf blood. But not hate, and not fear, and fangs make contact more with air and fur than flesh.
It's over quickly; the grey one wins, but only because the dark one gets bored, rolls onto his back briefly and gets up. He ignores the meat they were fighting over and grabs the other piece, the second biggest, because there's three pieces. The grey one ignores him, and drags his prize to his corner, by the pile of cloth that smells like him.
He dares to edge closer when the grey one's away, slinks near the last piece of meat, offers a wary twitch of the ear when the dark one's eyes meet him. The other wolf's ears prick forward, and he sniffs him, and his tail wags. Friend?
He wags back, and licks his jaw, lets their noses bump. Yes.
There is plenty of meat, and no one takes it from him, no one shoves burning things in his face or in his fur, and he eats greedily, swallows it down in huge chunks as fast as he can until he's sated, then drags the rest to his corner, hides it under his blanket, smothers it with his scent so everyone will know it's his.
He naps, and wakes, and naps some more, until he's next woken up by a nose behind his ear, and a soft whuff. He shoots to his feet, bristling and snarling, but it's the dark wolf, the familiar one, who lets him in his territory. He stands, stiff-legged, in front of the remains of his meal. Mine.
The other wolf doesn't even look at it. He bows, wags his tail, pricks his ears forward. Play?
So he does, and the gray wolf joins too, and they chase and wrestle in the too-small room until the moon starts to fade and they separate, quietly, to their own familiar scents.
When John wakes up, he is naked and cold and apparently lying on top of a piece of raw meat that's ruined his blanket. His stomach feels bloated, overfull in a way that's less pleasant and more 'I want to vomit.' He groans.
Sherlock is already dressed, and Lestrade is nowhere in sight. “He left already,” Sherlock says. “You shouldn't overeat when you're a wolf, by the way. It translates poorly when you change back.”
John casts his memories back to the night before; everything's hazy. He usually only gets impressions, and brief flashes of memory -- fear, anger, the taste of blood in his mouth, and the sound of screaming. This time, though, is different. “I think I recognized you,” he says, and accepts Sherlock's hand to help him up. “The wolf recognized you.”
“You did see my wolf shape before,” Sherlock agrees. He shoots a look at John and nudges the chunk of beef with a bare foot. In the light of day, it doesn't look nearly as appetizing as it had before (he remembers that too, remembers being hungry and thinking it looked like the most delicious thing ever). “You should stick this in the freezer before it goes bad.”
“It's been on the floor.”
“So? You were perfectly happy eating it before.”
“Yes, when I was a werewolf.”
“You're still a werewolf. Besides, you can always cut off the dirty pieces, if you're so fastidious about these things. How much do you remember about the night before?”
“I changed. There was food. We played afterwards.”
“Any details? Lestrade says how much you remember has to do with how in control of yourself you are.”
The feeling of another muzzle against his, the taste of raw meat in his mouth, dark ears pricked forward in a show of friendship. “Only a few things. What do you think?”
Sherlock's folding his blanket, brushing off bits of fur. “About what?”
“About what he says?”
“I've no idea. My earliest memories in wolf shape are from the same time as my earliest memories in human shape. Newborn werewolves aren't one of my areas of expertise.”
“Is that what I am? A newborn werewolf?”
“If you have a better metaphor, you're welcome to it.”
They end up putting some of the leftover meat in the freezer, and the rest in the bath. When John asks, Sherlock says, “I usually eat on the days surrounding a full moon. I'll finish it tonight.”
Sherlock seems just as sharp-witted and alert as he always does, but John's tired from being up most of the night, and when Sherlock goes out, John stays in. His muscles are still sore from the transformation, and he has no idea what he's going to do when he finally gets a job, short of calling in sick every full moon, which seems a bit too obvious.
He throws his ruined blanket in the wash and curls up in front of the telly, wrapped in Sherlock's blanket. If he can't be bothered to take it to his room, he's not got any right to object to John using it, and the wolf finds it soothing. The programmes are rubbish but he leaves the telly on anyways, letting the voices lull him to sleep.
Lestrade stops by in the evening to check up on him. “I just wanted to see how you're doing,” he says, and hesitates in the hallway until John beckons him in.
John's been living at the flat long enough that it doesn't smell quite so foreign anymore. His armchair smells distinctly his, which pleases the wolf to no end.
“You seemed a little spooked last night.”
“Oh, well.” John shrugs, embarrassed. “I don't really remember much. But we relaxed at the end, yeah? And I think I overate too, so I feel like shite.”
Lestrade grins at him, then becomes serious. “Your wolf remembers what happened to it before you were discharged,” he says. “I'm not going to ask what that was, but it must not have been pleasant.”
“I killed three people, the first time I transformed. I didn't mean to. The Taliban had a pack of werewolves it was using to wipe out our bases, and when I survived, after they managed to knock me out, we had me, and we did to them what they did to us.” He's not proud of it -- the thought churns his stomach still, wakes him up growling and snarling in the night. But it was for the best.
Lestrade's silent for a long moment. “I'm sorry,” he says finally.
“I can try to explain to you how to control the wolf,” Lestrade offers, when it becomes clear John's not going to say anything further. “Think of it as another person, living in your mind. You can't just bottle it up all month, or it's going to overdo things when it finally gets out. Like you did last night,” he adds pointedly.
“That doesn't sound like control,” John points out.
Lestrade nods. “That's because it's not. The bite gave you the wolf, and now you have to compromise with it. You can't force it down, or it'll fight you.”
“But it's dangerous. Violent.”
“It's not right now.” Lestrade moves closer, sitting on the coffee table -- it places his head lower than John's, and his wolf rumbles, pleased. Lestrade's a friend, and not challenging his dominance. “When I was a kid, I used to bargain with it -- we wouldn't hurt any of our classmates, but we'd stalk deer in the woods behind my house. Or we wouldn't growl at our parents during the full moon, and I'd bring my stuffed bear into the room with me for the next one. We're friends now,” and the smile he gives John is full of self-humor.
Making friends with his wolf. John hadn't thought it'd wanted friends, but the night before had proven him wrong. The wolf's sated now, pleased. It'd stuffed itself full last night, and now one of its playmates is back, lurking just beneath the skin of its human's companion. He's close enough to scent. John reaches a careful, mental hand towards the wolf in his mind, and feels a wary greeting in return.
“I can try that.”
Sherlock doesn't have an inner wolf because Sherlock is his inner wolf. When they're at a crime scene together, Sherlock dips his gloved fingers into the cold blood left by the victim's corpse. He sniffs it, and rubs it between his fingers, and already has his mouth open and tongue out to taste it before John digs an elbow into his ribs.
Sherlock stops. “Not good?” He asks.
“Not good,” John confirms, and looks around; no one's noticed Sherlock about to taste the victim's blood. “Normal people don't do that, you know.”
“Oh,” Sherlock says, in a voice that John's pretty sure means I don't understand at all, but I'll take your word for it for convenience's sake.
Sherlock smiles with his mouth closed to John, and to Lestrade (unless he's deliberately provoking him, which he does sometimes), but shows his teeth to Anderson and Donovan. John doesn't realize what it means until Donovan tells him Sherlock's dangerous, and John finds himself baring his teeth at her and saying, “Thanks for the warning,” when really he means, So am I.
A sneer looks an awful lot like a snarl, and a smile an awful lot like bared teeth.
If John is a human being and a wolf, who have come to share the same body, then Sherlock is something entirely different. He is some perfectly-blended mix of wolf and man, with no line in the sand where one ends and the other begins, equally at home on four legs or two.
There are things Sherlock ignores -- he lies on his back all the time, belly and throat exposed, and it drives John's wolf to distraction, but there are things he follows too. He slouches and drops his eyes when John wins an argument with him, and touches but doesn't sit in John's armchair. When he's angry he bares his teeth, and John can recognize his hunting stance even when they're human -- or as close to human as Sherlock gets, anyhow.
“It's not as bad as you think it was,” John says over dinner (takeaway for him, and tea for Sherlock), as they pore over the details of Sherlock's latest case.
“The suspect's alibi?” Sherlock is researching something on his phone. He doesn't look up.
“Full moons during Afghanistan. I know you and Greg think they brutalized me after I got bitten, but it wasn't like that. No one knew about me, except for the special ops group in charge of me, and except for one night a month, I was treated with just as much respect as I'd always been.”
Sherlock makes a noncommittal noise, but John knows he doesn't believe him.
“It's understandable, is all I'm saying. I turned into a dangerous beast every full moon, and they had to contain me. No one knew, aside from my handlers.”
“You were an asset and they used you.”
“I went willingly. I didn't want to put any of my unit in danger. I could have called it off at any time,” John insists, even as his wolf snarls inside him. They'd hurt it, left it half-mad with fury and terror. “They doubled my pension because of it.”
“Hmm,” Sherlock says, but what John's wolf hears is betrayal, you were theirs and they hurt you.
John's second full moon in London goes much like his first, but this time when he wakes up, the night before feels like a years-old memory punctuated with flashes of sensation. He's also managed not to ruin any of his bedding this time, a revelation that leaves him feeling inordinately proud. Well, there's a slight tear in the fabric from where one of his claws had gotten tangled, but that doesn't count.
The wolf feels closer now, humming just under his skin instead of locked in a corner of his mind, and he can feel its pleasure. It likes the dark wolf that is Sherlock, and they had curled up together at the end of the night, two round balls of fur that'd just barely brushed together.
“How is your memory?” Sherlock asks, and once his blanket is folded, begins to fold John's as well.
“Good, actually. I mean, it doesn't feel the same as a normal memory, but I'm getting there.”
“That's good. Waiting in here with you bores me, and having Lestrade around on full moons is incredibly irritating. 221C was not made to fit three fully-grown wolves for an entire night.”
John can sympathize, now. The thought of Lestrade locked in with him again, once more having to share such a small space, makes the wolf anxious. As does the thought of being locked up again at all -- his wolf wants air, fresh air, and the feel of a breeze against its fur.
We can't, he tells it, It's not safe, and the wolf growls, displeased.
The feeling doesn't go away tomorrow, or the day after, and when John goes out to apply for jobs, he finds his nose picking up scents he'd never paid attention to before -- perfume, soap, the sickly-sweetness of disease, and the sharp, acrid odor of fear.
That woman had sex this morning, and feels anxious. That man had sex with another man, and hasn't changed his clothes since the night before, when he'd eaten pizza and spilled a beer on his trousers. There is a stray dog in that direction, but stray dogs tend to be afraid of him, and not the other way around.
It's not that his nose is any better (it's better than it was when he was fully human, but hasn't changed since becoming a werewolf). It's that the wolf knows what it all means, while his human side's pretty much limited to “food”, “unwashed”, and “artificial”.
Thank you, he thinks to the wolf, and feels its pleasure as a response.
“Don't move towards the source of an interesting scent like that,” Sherlock advises, when John tilts his head and leans towards the tantalizing odors emanating from the Chinese restaurant down the street. “It makes you look like a dog. You can always go inside if you want to investigate further.”
He hadn't even realized he'd been doing it. “Is that something your mother taught you?” He lowers his voice. “About being a wolf?”
Sherlock shoots him a sidelong glance. “Among other things, yes.”
“Care to share with the rest of us?” John prompts, when Sherlock makes no motions to elaborate.
“It seems to come naturally to you,” Sherlock says, but obligingly ticks off points onto his fingers. “Don't growl at others. Don't bite. Don't lick. Don't touch dead things. Don't scare the horses,” and John is struck by a mental image of a much smaller Sherlock growling at a stable of horses just to make them rear. Sherlock catches John's expression and scowls at him. “I was a child, and our mother was used to raising Mycroft, who always did as he was told.”
“Those do seem to be common sense,” John agrees, but the wolf is already rumbling its lack of understanding. It sees nothing wrong with Sherlock licking fresh blood from his fingers, or the way Lestrade had greeted him the first time, bringing their faces close to each other like wolves instead of touching hands like humans.
John's never realized how much the wolf could help him, but it helps him now. The improved senses that had seemed overwhelming at first feel normal instead, lines of information streaming into the wolf's mind and passed, after translation, into John's.
He gets a job at a hospital, and the wolf memorizes the different scents of disease, until a patient needs only to get close to him before he can tell the difference between a cold and the flu, can identify when he can send someone off with a scrip for antibiotics versus a need to investigate further.
And in return, John lets it shadow his movements, lets it hide in his eyes when he walks home and run their hands over the rough bark of the trees they pass, leaving his scent as a marker. He tries not to make it obvious, but he knows he's failed when he catches Donovan's eyes on him when he stops by Scotland Yard and the wolf pulls him to a halt outside Lestrade's open office.
The man's not in, but the room reeks of him, of territory claimed, and they respect him too much to intrude without an invitation. John strokes his bare hand down the doorframe -- I stopped by, while you weren't here, it says, and covers the old, faded scent of Sherlock having done the same.
“What?” Donovan asks, and walks in. Not wolf, his wolf snarls in derision. No territory. “Too good to wait?”
“I'll wait outside,” John says instead, even though there's a perfectly serviceable chair in front of his desk.
She doesn't say it, but he knows she's thinking it (freak), and the wolf bares John's teeth at her. He doesn't stop it.
Do people always smell this much like food? John texts Sherlock, when there is a bad car accident and a half-dozen people are wheeled into the hospital, and John finds his stomach growling. He's craving red meat, which is more than a little alarming. Food, the wolf agrees, and John sends it a vehement, No.
Only when they're bleeding, Sherlock texts back.
There's a woman at the hospital who is pretty and kind and exactly John's type. And before the wolf, he would have smiled, and stammered, and asked her to have dinner with him. She'd say yes if he asked, he knows, because she bares her teeth at him (smiles, he tells the wolf, wants to be friends), and watches him when he walks by.
Before, when he'd smelled a woman (when he'd been human), he'd smelled their shampoo, or their perfume, and it had been nice. Exciting. But when he scents one now, the wolf bypasses all that and reports to him, Healthy, female, not wolf. Humandanger? Weak, soft. Prey?
It sees the world in black and white -- wolf and not wolf, prey and not prey. It doesn't see the point in making bonds with humans. Its only interests are in Greg and Sherlock.
He asks her out anyways, defiantly, because it's his choice, not the wolf's. She blushes and says yes, shyly.
Sherlock finds out, of course. “A date, John?” he asks when John's on his way out the door, straightening his cuffs.
“You don't need to sound so skeptical,” John replies defensively. “What's wrong with going on a date?”
“With who? One of them? What would be the point?”
“Maybe I just want to have a good time.”
“You can have a good time with me. And then you wouldn't need to wear so much cologne.” Sherlock's nose wrinkles minutely. The cologne is a little bit overpowering, but he'd already rinsed a lot of it off; to a human, it probably barely registers.
“I want a girlfriend, Sherlock. Haven't you ever --”
“Not with one of them,” Sherlock says, and his voice clearly says, What would I want with a human?
“Well, you're more of a wolf than I am. I'm still human 29 days out of the month, and I'd like some human companionship.”
The wolf's not pleased. Sarah bares her teeth too much. She meets his eyes and drops her gaze only to do it again and again. She's wearing too much of some sort of perfume that irritates him, and it feels like someone shouting “Look at me! Look at me!” right at his nose. Preynotfriend, his wolf insists. Not wolf.
Notprey, John thinks firmly at it, and pushes it down when it refuses to subside. They make small talk -- John asks about her favorite films, and she asks how he's enjoying his job, and in a corner of his mind the wolf paces in circles, bored. She can't run with him, can't speak to him, and the only thing enticing about her is her body, which is really not enough for a relationship.
He takes her home and kisses her goodnight, which feels wrong, because what he wants to do is tuck his nose behind her ear and inhale deeply -- but he knows he can't. The kiss is chaste, and she bares her teeth at him and says, “Good night, John,” and touches his arm lightly.
Boring, the wolf says to him, clawing at the corners of the mental enclosure John's set for it, and John sighs, lets it rise up again. Yes, okay, he says.
There won't be a second date.
For all that the wolf barely cares about humans, neatly throwing them all in a box labeled 'not wolf', he makes an exception for Harry. Or perhaps it is John who makes the exception, and the wolf merely accepts it.
Harry isn't wearing any perfume when she meets him, because she's not looking for a girlfriend anymore. There's no sharp scent of alcohol clinging to her, so if she has been drinking, it's not recently. She hugs John when she sees him, and he gets a nose full of her scent.
Blood, John's wolf says immediately, Not wolf, blood. Pack, and John breathes out in relief. He doesn't know what he would have done, if the wolf didn't accept her.
They talk and it's awkward, because Harry doesn't want to talk about Clara, and John doesn't want to talk about Afghanistan. John tells her what he dares about Sherlock (he's brilliant, he conducts experiments in the flat, he calls himself a consulting detective), and tries not to mention any cases that involved life or death situations.
He doesn't say anything he really wants to tell her (I got turned into a werewolf and he's one too and so is a DI on the force, I can identify people by smell from twenty feet away, the wolf in my head talks to me and considers you family).
He's not sure how he'd even begin.
John doesn't realize how unusual their running speed is until Sherlock vaults a chain-link fence in one smooth motion, and John follows just as easily. When he turns around to check on the officers behind him (Sherlock had deduced where the killer had stashed the next body, and was leading them to it -- John tries very hard not to think about search and rescue dogs, but he can't keep the smile from his face), they are panting heavily and barely keeping up. They stop at the fence.
Sherlock shouts to them their destination, and tells them to take a car, that they'll meet at the body. John follows when he runs off. He's not even winded. The night breeze against his face is pleasantly cool.
“I have a limp, you know. From the war,” he comments, when he follows Sherlock up a fire escape.
“Psychosomatic doesn't count,” Sherlock replies, and, with a running start, vaults onto the next building over.
John hesitates, but the wolf says jump, so he does. He makes the jump with a few feet to spare. “Why are we going this way?”
“It's a straight line. Faster than taking a cab, given the traffic.”
“You think it's fun,” John accuses, after the third leap. Sherlock's coat billows dramatically each time, which has got to be deliberate.
Sherlock looks at him. “Don't you?” When John doesn't answer, Sherlock continues, “Le Parkour, John. It's not uncommon. Even normal people do it.”
“Probably not from two stories up,” John mutters under his breath, and Sherlock laughs.
John doesn't realize their murderer is waiting for them at the body -- the stench of death, and blood, and decaying flesh drowns out his sense of smell. Unlike Sherlock, he is not so lupine that human bodies don't bother him, and it seizes his attention. He is taken off guard when the murderer charges him.
He has a knife, and John catches it with his forearm, feels the thud and the sudden pain as it embeds itself deep into his flesh. The wolf roars, and surges up.
“John! John!” Someone is shaking his shoulders. Sherlock. Packmate, safe, friend, his wolf says, and its fury drains away. It doesn't fight when John pushes it back down.
“What? What is it?” John shakes his head; his face feels weird. There's something wrong with his vision, and his words come out mangled. He brings a hand to his face. His teeth are sharp, snout protruding just slightly; how had that happened?
“You can't change. It's not safe. The police will be here any minute now. Change back,” Sherlock orders, and catches the wolf's eyes with his own. His wolf whimpers, withdraws into his skin, and color leeches back into his world. His teeth flatten. There's blood in his mouth. It's not his own.
“Did I? Is he --” But John can see their murderer now, sprawled on his back, eyes wide with terror, cowering from him. He can smell sweat, and urine, and blood from where John bit into his arm. He wrinkles his nose, but the wolf laughs, darkly pleased. John becomes suddenly aware of his own arm; the knife is still in it, buried to the hilt. “Fuck.”
Sherlock yanks the knife out of John's arm, and pushes back the sleeve to look at the wound -- it's deep, and John should be frightened, would be frightened, but he seems to have lost his sense of fear. “It's not bad,” Sherlock says. “Don't let the police see, or they'll try to send you to hospital.”
It's still bleeding, but sluggishly, and the wolf offers up a memory -- electricity jolting through his body, the acrid scent of burning fur. John had woken up with burn marks in the past, in Afghanistan, but they'd never persisted longer than a few days. He opens his hand, then closes it. The motion causes more blood to well up, and it hurts, but it's a clean hurt, sharp and pure.
Sherlock is still holding his forearm, and he lifts it higher, bows his head over it. John's not sure what he's doing until he feels the sudden warm wetness of Sherlock's tongue against his skin, and he sucks in a surprised breath through his teeth. Sherlock casts his eyes upward. “Hurts?”
“I -- only a little. You surprised me.”
“I'm cleaning away the blood. Saliva enhances wound healing,” he says, and cleans the blood from John's arm with short, efficient licks. John is taken by surprise by the surge of heat it causes in the pit of his stomach, followed swiftly by the urge to push Sherlock against a wall and sink blunt teeth into his throat.Claim him, his wolf says, and John replies, No.
When the wound is clean, just a jagged streak of red that oozes blood sluggishly, Sherlock pulls his sleeve back down for him and lets go. John can smell his blood in Sherlock's mouth. He's momentarily mesmerized by the way Sherlock's tongue darts out to lick traces of John's blood from his lips.
“The police are here,” Sherlock says, and steps away. John watches as Sherlock throws the cloak of humanity over himself, concealing the wolf shape underneath. His stance changes, and he adjusts his coat, and something in his face shifts. It's like an optical illusion, because suddenly Sherlock's human -- a strange human, but still human. “Lestrade isn't with them. We should go.”
John leads a couple officers to the body -- the wolf marvels at how they could have missed it; its scent is nearly overpowering, while Sherlock talks to the others and deals with their murderer.
“Is that blood? Are you hurt?” Someone asks, and reaches for his arm.
John pulls it back, tugs on the sleeve of his jacket self-consciously. It'll need another patch. “No,” he says, and smiles at her. “It's probably just the light.”
He doesn't bother bandaging it when he gets home. It heals within three days.
“Lestrade isn't coming tonight,” Sherlock says. He is lying on the sofa again, in his dressing robe. “Missing persons case. Open and shut case, but he's going to be looking for the victim's body.”
“Can he do that? Be a search dog, I mean.” John checks his watch, but it doesn't carry meaning for him. He doesn't know what time moonrise is, just feels it running over his skin, tugging and prickling, growing ever closer.
“Certainly. His sense of smell is better than that of any dogs they have on the force,” Sherlock replies, looking at the ceiling. “We'll change in here today. You didn't destroy anything last time, and 221C is boring. Also, Mrs. Hudson thinks we're keeping Lestrade's dogs in there.”
“Lestrade doesn't have dogs.”
Sherlock waves a dismissive hand. “Irrelevant. It's important not to be seen as a stray, when running about London as a wolf. Thankfully, most people are too blind to tell the difference between a wolf and a dog.”
Sherlock strips with his usual perfunctory indifference, and John looks away, a flush rising on his cheeks. Sherlock's all sharp angles and smooth, unmarred expanses of pale, pale skin, and John wants. John wants with an intensity felt by human and wolf both, wants to mark him and claim him and hurt him.
He's sure Sherlock knows, but he doesn't bring it up, and his anxiety over the matter is pushed away by the wolf's glee when the change finally hits him. It hurts less this time. The wolf's rising to the surface and spilling over into reality, rather than clawing its way out, and John can feel his own thoughts getting pushed down.
He pushes back, and the wolf growls. It translates itself into the real world, a rumble that works its way through his chest and up his throat and out his mouth. The wolf pushes him away, and John feels his awareness fading, darkness creeping up around the edges of his mind. It feels like going blind, and it frightens him. Is this how it'd felt for the wolf, when John had locked him away in a corner of his mind?
I'm sorry, he thinks to it, You can be in charge now.
And suddenly John -- John is still here, can still feel, and once he stops fighting for control the wolf lets him float closer, into the passenger's seat of their shared body.
Sherlock cocks his head at him and barks inquisitively. Okay? his ears ask. Pack. Friend, his tail says, and John's wolf wags his tail and yips back.
Sherlock pads closer, and noses John's cheek; his tongue darts out to lick John's jaw. It'd be submissive, but his ears say otherwise, and the wolf growls at him, tries to bring his head higher than Sherlock's. Sherlock wins the ensuing wrestling match, but only because Sherlock fights with the same level of cunning he has as a human, and whenever John tries to help the wolf, they end up tripping over their own paws.
They end up lying on the ground, with Sherlock gnawing on one of John's ears like a puppy. John's tail wags, and the wolf's tongue lolls out happily. The wolf points their snout towards the window -- firmly shut, but John's seen Sherlock come in from it in his wolf form before, and whines. Outside?
No, John thinks to it, and pulls them down when the wolf tries to rise. Danger, he thinks to it. Humans. The wolf subsides reluctantly; it doesn't like humans, associates them with pain and fire.
Now that John's present during his transformation, he's bored. There's not enough space to run, and all the scents in the flat are boring, things he's smelled a million times before. Sherlock's interesting, but there's only so much they can do without destroying furniture. Bored, he whines.
Bored, Sherlock agrees, and looks wistfully at the window -- it's a sliding window, not one that pushes open, and they can neither of them manage it with paws.
Sherlock shows him the flat from a four-legged perspective, everything just slightly different from the way John remembers it, with hidden spaces he'd never noticed when he was taller. John discovers several experiments he hadn't known about that don't smell as revolting as he expects, but he suspects it's the wolf's influence that makes him think that, because at least one of them is a dead rabbit.
When he tries to fish it out from behind the fridge, Sherlock growls at him, and John growls back, because he's bored and wants to go out but they can't. And they tussle again for a moment, because they are both wolves and it's what bored wolves do.
As the sun rises, John realizes, with some surprise, that this is the happiest his wolf has ever been, and he wants to hold on to that feeling, forever.
John's never been conscious for the change before, and when he feels the moon's pull recede, he's surprised to realize it doesn't hurt. The wolf hands control off to John without a protest, and it feels like stepping out of a warm bath, or getting up after a massage so strong it leaves his muscles feeling like jelly. The blanket he's on is warm, and soft, and it takes effort to lift his head.
Sherlock lies next to him, equally awake, a relaxed expression on his face. John rolls on his side to face him. “Is it always like that?” He asks. “That was lovely.”
“I don't know,” he replies, a touch testily, because John tends to ask Sherlock questions about being a werewolf before he asks Greg, despite the fact that Sherlock's answer is frequently, “I've no frame of reference. This is normal to me.”
Sherlock stretches then, a shaft of sunlight catching on his bare chest, and John's mouth goes dry with wanting. Sherlock looks at him, cocks his head, sniffs the air. There's no way he can miss the way John's body is stirring, the way the wolf's focus has shifted from taking a nap to Sherlock. John waits with bated breath until Sherlock scowls at him, demands, “Well, do you or don't you? How can you possibly be taking so long to decide?”
Sherlock looks at him as if he's an idiot. “That you were attracted to me? Of course. You've found me attractive since we first met. I was waiting to see if you were interested. It shouldn't be such a difficult decision.”
John swallows. “Oh,” he breathes. “Can I?” He reaches for Sherlock and Sherlock tilts his head, lets John slide a hand behind the back of his neck and pull him in.
They are both sleepy and lazy from the change -- Sherlock tends to throw it off more quickly than John, but he hasn't yet, and there's no urgency in the kiss. They have all day for this.
Sherlock runs his fingers over the scar on John's shoulder, and he shivers. “This is how it happened,” he says, and rubs his palm against it, making the skin tingle. He follows his hand with his lips and tongue, and John groans. “It doesn't hurt you anymore.”
Sherlock drags a hand down John's chest, lightly scratching. He hesitates at John's belly, at John's cock bumping against the base of his palm. He brings his face close to John's, and their eyes meet. “Do you want...?”
“Yes, God, yes,” John says, and squeezes the back of Sherlock's neck, presses their mouths together. He bites down on Sherlock's tongue when he wraps a hand around his cock, and he's about to apologize, but Sherlock makes a low, needy sound in response, and his hips stutter against John, cock sliding slickly against his belly. Sherlock digs his fingers into the scar on John's shoulders, and it hurts, it hurts like a sunburst on the inside of his eyelids, but it feels so bright.
“Yeah, like that, fuck, more,” someone is growling, low and guttural, and John realizes with surprise that it's him.
“Hold still, hold still, let me,” Sherlock mutters against his mouth, and fumbles with his hand between them, catches both their cocks in his long, elegant fingers, stroking them in tandem, slow at first, then faster. They're so close they're sharing breath, and John's drowning in the scent of him, thrusting uncontrollably until his orgasm breaks over him in a rushing wave of pleasure. Sherlock says John's name when he comes, groans it like an oath as warm wetness spills between their bellies and the scent of their release blankets the room.
Later, when they come back to themselves, Sherlock drags his fingers through their semen, mixed together, and brings his hand up. He looks at it under the light, then licks it thoughtfully. “Hmm,” he says, and makes a pleased sort of hum.
John laughs shakily. “I'm not young enough to be up for a second round anytime soon,” he warns, but the wolf, ever curious, causes him to do the same, tasting their mixed fluids.
Interesting, his wolf agrees.
John worries that they'll have to talk about what happened between them, but his wolf's smug confidence reassures him. Mine, it rumbles happily, and when John gets back from the kitchen with breakfast, Sherlock smiles at him, lazy and warm.
Yours, agrees Sherlock's slouch, and the tilt of his head, and the coy way he glances at John out the corner of his eyes -- feigning submission, because it drives his wolf crazy, and Sherlock knows it.
“Did you want any toast?” John offers him the plate, but Sherlock pushes it away.
“I'm not hungry.” That's his code phrase for “I don't want to eat human food right now.”
Sherlock checks his email until John finishes eating, then presses John down against the table and mouths his throat, his ears, his jaw. He sucks a vivid purple bruise on John's throat then another on his hip, but John draws blood first when he bites down on Sherlock's lower lip, and he sucks on it greedily, basking in the taste of him.
They smear their scent everywhere, mark the sofa and the tables and the armchairs and the walls.
Us, it says.
Lestrade, of course, knows the instant he calls them to a crime scene. Sherlock's scent clings to John now, and John's to Sherlock. It's impossible to miss. He wrinkles his nose at John as if to say, Sherlock? Really?
John shrugs and gives him an embarrassed grin in response while Sherlock splits off to examine the body with a glee that is, frankly, a lot of the reason why people think he's a sociopath.
“Well, I'm happy for you. I think.” Lestrade sits on the hood of a police car, and John sits next to him.
“Is it obvious?”
Lestrade nods, and puts his hands in his pockets. “To me, bleedingly. To everyone else, less so. Sherlock's not usually in such a good mood. He hasn't even said anything to Anderson yet, not even to insult his moustache.”
Anderson's been trying to grow a moustache for the last two weeks. John cringes inwardly every time he sees it.
“So, Sherlock's going to teach me how to call the change soon,” John comments, and glances at Lestrade out of the corner of his eyes. “Any pointers?”
“There's a trick to calling the wolf up. Once you do it the first time, the rest is easy, but it'll make you hungry afterwards, so it's always best to keep a stash of food in the cupboards. When you go out, wear a collar or someone might report you as a stray. It's happened a few times, and let me tell you, you don't want to spend a full moon night dodging dog wardens.”
John chuckles, imagining a wolf the size of Sherlock or Lestrade running from dog wardens.
Sherlock stands suddenly. “John!” he calls. “John, come look at this, tell me what you think.”
“That's my cue,” John says, and rises to obey.
“Close your eyes and think about being a wolf,” Sherlock instructs for the thousandth time, sounding baffled at John's week-long failure to master the art of turning into a wolf at will. “Remember what the change during a full moon feels like, and then do it.”
“I'm trying,” John growls through gritted teeth. Change? He asks the wolf, but it's just as confused as he is, because the full moon is weeks away, and there is no pull turn him inside out.
He figures it out after another half-hour of reaching and twisting -- there is a trick to it, a sort of strange mental shift that makes coarse brown fur ripple slowly down his back. “Got it,” he says, pleased.
Sherlock looks up from the book he's reading. “Congratulations,” he says, when John, fully wolf now, hops off the bed. He offers a hand for John to sniff. John does so, then licks Sherlock's fingers, and Sherlock scratches him under the chin.
He feels different than he does under a full moon; he's in charge, not the wolf. At least, he thinks so, because when the body moves, he remembers trying to move it. But it feels different. Everything feels different. The wolf's thoughts flash through his consciousness as naturally as his own do, and being on four legs, losing his color vision, isn't foreign or disorienting at all.
There is a tug on his scruff, then Sherlock's hand in front of his face, holding a tuft of fur. “You're beginning to shed.”
John whines, and noses Sherlock's fingers. He ducks his head and rubs his ears against them. Sherlock scratches him obligingly. More fur flutters to the floor, and Sherlock nudges it with a bare toe. “Hmm.”
Sherlock shuts the book and stands up. “Wait for me in the sitting room.”
John ignores the command and follows Sherlock into his bedroom with only a momentary hesitation at its threshold. He's never been in Sherlock's room before. Sherlock, when he sleeps, joins John in his bedroom, or if John's not present, tends to favor the sofa for collapsing on when gripped by post-case exhaustion.
John investigates curiously. The chair is pushed into the desk, and the clothes in the closet smell like the dry cleaners. There is a stack of books in the corner, and a soft rug on the floor that is littered with short strands of dark fur, and John doesn't dare investigate the top of the desk, because it smells like poison.
And pushed against the wall is a bed, unmade, smelling of Sherlock (the scent is stale, he hasn't lain it in for days). He jumps onto it and rolls around, rubbing his scent over the mattress. Sherlock wraps his fingers around John's tail and pulls.
“You're leaving hair on my sheets,” he complains. “I told you to wait for me in the sitting room.”
Sherlock doesn't keep condoms or lubricant in his nightstand -- instead, John gets a glimpse of a worn leather collar and a brush. Sherlock pulls out the latter. There are bits of fur caught between the tines, some Sherlock's and the rest Lestrade's, but the scent is nearly gone. It hasn't been touched for months.
“Lestrade and I brush each other's coats out, when it becomes necessary,” Sherlock explains. “I can do yours now.”
Sherlock spreads old newspapers out on the floor in front of the fireplace, and at his gesture, John lays down on them obligingly. The first draw of the brush through John's fur scratches in just the right way, and he leans into it. Each subsequent stroke relaxes him further, and by the time Sherlock shakes his muzzle to draw his attention, John and his wolf are half-asleep.
There is a small pile of fur all around him. Short strands of it cling to Sherlock's shirt and trousers. John laughs, or as much as he's able to as a wolf, jaw dropping and tongue lolling out playfully. He stands and shakes, sending fur flying all over the place; Sherlock shoves him in the shoulder, laughing too. “You'll be the one to clean that up, then,” he says. “Because I spent so much of my valuable time grooming you.”
John flattens his ears and tries his fiercest growl, but the effect is rather ruined when Sherlock ruffles his ears and John finds his tail wagging involuntarily.
Greg joins them for the full moon, and Sherlock leaves the window open. Before they strip, Sherlock tosses a shopping bag at John. “You'll need this,” he says.
It's a collar made from plain brown leather, roughly the same color as John's fur. It smells new (it is new, the receipt's still in the bag), and at the wolf's nudge, John brings it to his mouth and gives it an experimental chew. There's no tag. “So no one causes a panic about wolves escaped from the zoo?” He guesses.
Lestrade nods, and pulls his collar from the pocket of his coat -- his is blue, and made of fabric, and has a shiny metal tag attached to the buckle. “I spend a lot of time in wolf form around humans,” he explains, slightly sheepishly, as he closes it around his neck. “It comes in handy if I ever need to go somewhere I can't as DI Lestrade, or need to track someone.”
“He pretends to be a dog,” Sherlock says, and there is a sneer that is really a snarl in his voice, because of course Sherlock would never pretend to be a dog. He barely pretends to be tame.
“Thanks,” John says, and buckles the collar around his neck. He doesn't miss the way Sherlock's eyes track the movement of his hands, or the way he licks his lips. John memorizes that for later, when they are human again and alone together.
This time, when the change comes, everything's different. He's caught up in the wolf's glee, welcome to share its joy when it bounds to Sherlock, nuzzles his neck and gets an answering lick in return. The collar around their neck feels strange, and the wolf scratches at it with one of his hind legs until John stops them.
He recognizes Greg, and when the wolf becomes wary (our territory, interloper?), John soothes it (friend, trust). The wariness recedes.
He approaches, and Greg rolls onto his back, exposes his stomach. Your territory, he agrees. Not mine, and John mouths his throat agreeably, wolf pleased. They sniff each other -- male, healthy, wolf, familiar. The closest to pack a werewolf gets.
Reintroductions over, the open window beckons to them. Greg jumps out first, and Sherlock follows. He looks back at John before he leaps, cocks his head and twitches his ears. Ready?
Yes, John thinks.
Yes, the wolf agrees, and they slip out into the night.
The outside world is a cacophony of scents and sounds and prey, and John follows Greg and Sherlock ecstatically, stopping every few feet to investigate something new -- the paths marked out by dogs, a scrap of food tossed to the floor, a human who had walked by, not twenty minutes ago, carrying takeaway. He detects the signs of pain too -- dried bloodstains, fear smeared across a wall or a lamppost.
Greg leads them to a park, where John rolls on his back in the grass and scratches deep grooves into the bases of the trees. Sherlock is a bit of a prat, no matter what form he's in, and he seems to take great delight in bullying stray dogs out of the park.
John tackles Greg, because he wants to, because he can, because his wolf is playing, and they wrestle and paw and bite until Sherlock tries to join them. They both gang up on him to hold him down, until he gives up and bares his throat with a happy wag of the tail.
They don't mark their territory, because neither Sherlock nor Greg will respect boundaries if they're on a case. But there are other werewolves who do. When Greg leads them across the city, the wolf maps the territories out in their mind, laying them over the map John's got in his head.
A patch, here and there, belonging to a lone wolf. And the rest, theirs. All of it theirs, because there are three of them, and the others are alone.
John interrupts a mugging by walking into the middle of it and pawing at the attacker, and is rewarded with quick pat on the head, followed by the would-be victim's hasty retreat, stinking of fear. Sherlock takes them on a run, through little-used parts of the city, places John's never bothered to go before. Greg brings them to the butcher shop that has a soft spot for dogs, where an employee tosses them scraps.
And at the end of their night, John raises his head in a howl and they join him, singing their claim to the moon.
Mine, mine, mine.